IT’S odd to think that around 10 years ago Skoda was still considered something of a joke. Certainly, when Volkswagen bought into the Czech firm in 1991 a few eyebrows were raised.
However, Skoda’s brand has seen a remarkable transition from laughing stock to respected car choice. The Octavia has played a huge part in this turnaround, but the Fabia supermini has also played an important role. As a result, Skoda has consistently increased its sales and last year in the UK they reached nearly 39,000, accounting for a 1.7% market share.
With this new-model Fabia on sale from May, niche models like the Octavia Scout and an impending Suberb replacement, Skoda hopes to increase that to 58,000 units and a 2% market share in the UK by 2010.
Of that, they anticipate fleets will take around 25,000 sales – or 43%. That compares with 13,500 fleet sales in 2006, business sales making up 35% of Skoda’s success last year.
Obviously, that underlines a big potential growth area, particularly with Fabia, which took around 3,500 fleet sales last year. The new car should certainly appeal to a wider audience, due no doubt to the Fabia’s new look, which borrows the family face from the new Roomster.
Impressive as the old car was, it always fell short on the desirability stakes. Its workmanlike styling was hardly alluring in a market where looks clearly count. The new Fabia changes this. It’s still recognisable as Skoda’s supermini, but gains some neater, sharper detailing that will undoubtedly appeal to a younger, more fashionable customer base.
Narrower and taller than the outgoing car, the new Fabia boasts improved interior space for passengers and luggage – in both areas, it’s among the best in its class.
Useful touches like a double glovebox, split-level parcel shelf and shopping bag holder in the boot aid practicality, while a smarter fascia gives the Fabia a more modern, appealing feel.
Interior plastics better most of those found in its rivals, the Fabia feeling particularly well built.
Prices and specifications have yet to be announced, but all cars will come with ABS with EBD and brake assist, central locking, deadlocks and an immobiliser.
The engine line-up consists of four petrol choices and three turbodiesels. The entry-level engines are three-cylinder units, the 1.2-litre petrol in 59bhp and 68bhp guises, the 1.4-litre turbo-diesel offered with either 64bhp or 79bhp. Those two diesels manage 58mpg and 61.4mpg respectively on the combined cycle, CO2 emissions being 127g/km and 120g/km.
The more powerful version of the 1.4 TDI performs better in both emissions and economy – though if fitted with a particulate filter the consumption and emissions rise to match those of the lesser-powered car. The 1.2-litre petrol manages 47mpg in both outputs, CO2 also being the same at 140g/km. An automatic is also offered, and an estate version will follow later this year.
No word on the new vRS sporting model yet, but expect it to be announced at one of this year’s international motor shows.
Behind the wheel
GET in the Fabia and you’re immediately aware of a far more pleasing cockpit. It feels well built, and that taller glasshouse makes for a lighter, airier cabin.
Starting up the three-cylinder 1.4-litre diesel results in a rather agricultural clatter, the racket reducing – though never disappearing – once it has warmed up. Ignoring the noise, it’s a willing unit, with the 79bhp version we drove (a 68bhp model is also offered) offering decent performance and 58mpg capability.
It’s an easier drive than the larger-capacity 1.6-litre, 103bhp petrol. The diesel’s heftier torque figure (144lb-ft over 113lb-ft) produced at lower revs makes the diesel a more relaxed drive in the Fabia both around town and on motorways.
The largest diesel, the ubiquitous Volkswagen Group 1.9 TDI, gives the Fabia decent pace with a 10.8 second 0-62mph time, with the advantage of 57mpg capability. However, if one engine shines in the range it’s unquestionably the 1.2-litre petrol three-cylinder. Like its diesel relative, it’s offered in two outputs – 59bhp and 68bhp – and its revvy, willing nature and characterful engine note make it the engine of choice.
Economy in both is 47mpg and being a lighter engine the ride and steering feel is improved when it’s fitted. None are what you’d call exciting to drive, but there is plenty of grip, a slick gearshift and a composed ride – the latter unsettled slightly with bigger engine and larger-wheel combinations.
A GOOD choice of engines, of which we’d recommend the entry-level units, and the promise of decent specifications, inexpensive running costs, reliability and sensible pricing make the Fabia a desirable choice in the supermini market.
|Model:||1.2||1.2||1.4||1.6 (auto)||1.4 TDI||1.4 TDI (DPF)||1.9 TDI (DPF)|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||59/5,200||68/5,400||84/5,000||103/5,600||64/4,000||79/4,000||103/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||80/3,000||83/3,000||97/3,800||113/3,800||114/2,800||144/2,200||177/1,800 (177/1900)|
|Max speed (mph):||96||101||108||118 (114)||101||106||117|
|0-62mph (secs):||16.5||14.9||12.3||10.1 (11.1)||14.8||13.2||10.8|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||47.8||47.8||43.4||40.9 (37.1)||58.8||61.4 (58.8)||57.6 (55.4)|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||140||140||155||165 (185)||127||120 (127)||129 (135)|